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Why cloud offerings should be as open as all other IT technologies
The buzz around cloud computing has reached a fever pitch. Some believe it is a disruptive trend representing the next stage in the evolution of the internet. Others believe it is hype, as it uses long established computing technologies. As with any new trend in the IT world, enterprises must figure out the benefits and risks of cloud computing and the best way to use this technology. One thing is clear: The industry needs an objective, straightforward conversation about how this new computing paradigm will impact organizations, how it can be used with existing technologies, and the potential pitfalls of proprietary technologies that can lead to lock-in and limited choice. This document is intended to initiate a conversation that will bring together the emerging cloud computing community (both cloud users and cloud vendors) around a core set of principles. We believe that these core principles are rooted in the belief that cloud computing should be as open as all other IT technologies. This document does not intend to define a final taxonomy of cloud computing or to charter a new standards effort. Nor does it try to be an exhaustive thesis on cloud architecture and design. Rather, this document speaks to CIOs and other business leaders who intend to use cloud computing and to establish a set of core principles for cloud vendors. Cloud computing is still in its early stages, with much to learn and more experimentation to come. However, the time is right for the members of the emerging cloud computing community to come together around the notion of an open cloud.
What is Cloud Computing and Why is it Important?
In order to understand the core principles of an open cloud, we need to first level set on some basic definitions and concepts of cloud computing itself. First, what is the cloud? The architecture and terminology of cloud computing is as clearly and precisely defined as, well, a cloud. Since cloud computing is really a culmination of many technologies such as grid computing, utility computing, SOA, Web 2.0, and other technologies, a precise definition is often debated. While definitions, taxonomies and architectures are interesting, it is more important to understand the value propositions for cloud computing. More importantly, we need to understand how suppliers of cloud technology will come together to deliver on the promise of cloud computing. The key characteristics of the cloud are the ability to scale and provision computing power dynamically in a cost efficient way and the ability of the consumer (end user, organization or IT staff) to make the most of that power without having to manage the underlying complexity of the technology. These characteristics lead to a set of core value propositions: Scalability on Demand All organizations have to deal with changes in their environments. The ability of cloud computing solutions to scale up and down is a major benefit. If an organization has periods of time in which their computing resource needs are much higher or lower 2
than normal, the cloud can deal with those changes. The organization pays for the IT resources it actually uses; it does not have to maintain an artificially high level of resources to handle peak demands. Streamlining the Data Center An organization of any size will have a substantial investment in its data center. That includes buying and maintaining the hardware and software, providing the facilities in which the hardware is housed and hiring the personnel who keep the data center running. An organization can streamline its data center by offloading workload into the cloud. The vast majority of the hardware, software, personnel and energy costs are borne by the cloud vendor, freeing an organization’s resources for other projects. Improving Business Processes The cloud provides an infrastructure for improving business processes. An organization and its suppliers and partners can share data and applications in the cloud, allowing everyone involved to focus on the business process instead of the infrastructure that hosts it. Minimizing Startup Costs For companies that are just starting out, organizations in emerging markets, or even “Skunk Works” groups in larger organizations, cloud computing greatly reduces startup costs. The new organization starts with an infrastructure already in place, so the time and other resources that would be spent on building a data center are borne by the cloud vendor.
Challenges and Barriers to Adoption
Although the cloud presents tremendous opportunity and value for organizations, the usual IT requirements (security, integration, and so forth) still apply. In addition, some new issues come about because of the multi-tenant nature (information from multiple companies may reside on the same physical hardware) of cloud computing, the merger of applications and data, and the fact that a company’s workloads might reside outside of their physical on-premise datacenter. This section examines five main challenges that cloud computing must address in order to deliver on its promise. Security Many organizations are uncomfortable with storing their data and applications on systems they do not control. Migrating workloads to a shared infrastructure increases the potential for unauthorized exposure. Consistency around authentication, identity management, compliance, and access technologies will become increasingly important. To reassure their customers, cloud vendors must offer a high degree of transparency into their operations. Data and Application Interoperability It is important that both data and applications systems expose standard interfaces. 3
Organizations will want the flexibility to create new solutions enabled by data and applications that interoperate with each other regardless of where they reside (public cloud, private cloud, or traditional IT environments). Cloud vendors need to support interoperability standards so that organizations can combine any cloud vendor's capabilities into their solutions. Data and Application Portability Without standards, the ability to bring systems back in-house will be limited by proprietary APIs. Once an organization builds or ports a system to use a cloud vendor’s offerings, bringing that system back in-house will require the organization to replicate the cloud vendor’s environment or change the system to use their own environment Governance and Management As IT departments introduce cloud solutions in context of their traditional datacenter, new challenges arise. Standardized mechanisms for dealing with lifecycle management, licensing, and chargeback for shared cloud infrastructure are just some of the management and governance issues cloud vendors must work together to resolve. Metering and Monitoring Business leaders will want to use multiple cloud vendors in their IT solutions and will need to monitor system performance across these solutions. Vendors must supply consistent formats to monitor cloud applications and service performance and make them compatible with existing monitoring systems. It is clear that the opportunity for those who effectively utilize cloud computing in their organizations is great. However, these opportunities are not without risks and barriers. It is our belief that the value of cloud computing can be fully realized only when cloud vendors ensure that the cloud is open.
The Goals of an Open Cloud
Customers expect that the cloud services they use will be as open as the rest of their IT choices. As mentioned earlier, there are significant barriers to the adoption of cloud computing. As cloud vendors ask their potential customers to accept a loss of control over their resources, hiding vendor lock-in behind the benefits of cloud computing will lead to long-term damage to the cloud computing community. As an open cloud becomes a reality, business leaders will benefit in several ways. Note: This document does not differentiate between public clouds (services available on the Internet) and private clouds (services within an organization’s firewall). We believe the principles defined here have value for private clouds as well as public ones. Choice As an organization chooses a vendor or architecture or usage model, an open cloud will make it easy for them to use a different vendor or architecture as the business 4
environment changes. If the organization needs to change providers because of new partnerships, acquisition, customer requests or government regulations, they can do so easily. If the organization deploys a private cloud, they can choose between vendors as they extend their capacity and/or functional capabilities. Resources that would have been spent on a difficult migration can instead be spent on innovation. Flexibility No matter which cloud vendor and architecture an organization uses, an open cloud makes it easy for them to work with other groups, even if those other groups choose different vendors and architectures. An open cloud will make it easy for organizations to interoperate between different cloud vendors. Speed and Agility One of the value propositions of cloud computing is the ability to scale hardware and software as needed. Using open interfaces allows organizations to build new solutions that integrate public clouds, private clouds and current IT systems. As the conditions of the organization change, an open cloud lets the organization respond with speed and agility. Skills A side effect of an open cloud is the availability of skilled professionals. If there are many proprietary programming models, a given IT professional is unlikely to know more than a few of them. In an open cloud, there is a small set of new technologies to learn (especially when existing technologies are utilized), greatly enhancing the chances that the organization can find someone with the necessary skills.
Principles of an Open Cloud
As the cloud computing community matures, there are several key principles that must be followed to ensure the cloud is open and accessible: 1. Cloud vendors must work together to ensure that the challenges to cloud adoption (security, integration, portability, interoperability, governance/management, metering/monitoring) are addressed through open standards. 2. Cloud vendors must not use their market position to lock customers into their particular platforms. 3. Cloud vendors must use and adopt existing standards wherever appropriate. The IT industry has invested heavily in existing standards and standards organizations; there is no need to duplicate or reinvent them. 4. When new standards (or adjustments to existing standards) are needed, we must be judicious and pragmatic and avoid creating too many standards. We must ensure that standards promote innovation and do not inhibit it. 5. Any community effort around the open cloud should be driven by customer needs, not merely the technical needs of cloud vendors, and should be tested or verified against real customer requirements. 5
6. Cloud computing standards organizations, advocacy groups, communities and open source projects should work together and stay coordinated, making sure that efforts do not conflict or overlap.
As we mentioned earlier, this document is meant to begin the conversation, not define it. There are many details (taxonomies, definitions and scenarios, for example) that will be filled in as the cloud computing community comes together. Our first action item is to meet to flesh out those details. (Whether the details will be added to this document, contributed to a standards effort or published elsewhere will be determined.) We've outlined the challenges facing enterprises that want to use the cloud. These issues lead to a call to action for the IT industry around a vision of an open cloud. We as industry participants must work together to ensure that the cloud remains as open as all other IT technologies. Some might argue that it is too early to discuss topics such as standards, interoperability, integration and portability. Although this is a time of great innovation for the cloud computing community, that innovation should be guided by the principles of openness outlined in this document. We argue that it is exactly the right time to begin the work to build the open cloud. The following companies have signed this document supporting the vision of an open cloud:
<insert company logos here>
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